The government cannot blame the people for not investing the hard -earned money in the productive sectors
Tens of thousands of Nepali youths leave the country annually to as many as 76 countries as migrant workers, who send billions of rupees as remittances to support their families back home and to help the country's economy sustain. However, their contribution to their families and national economy are hardly recognised by the government, which has not been able to safeguard their safe migration and protect their rights in the host countries. Although Minister of Foreign Affairs Narayan Khadka, while addressing a function the other day, claimed that the government had been raising the issues of safe migration and protection of the rights and welfare of the Nepali migrant workers, the statistics provided by the government itself does not support his claims of doing so. One glaring example is the government's failure to implement the 'Free Visa, Free Ticket' facility to Nepali migrant workers. Many migrant labourers do not get the miminum facility that they are entitled to when they go to their destinations. In this respect, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour need to work in a coordinated way to address the problems of Nepalis engaged in the international labour market. Khadka admitted that the Nepali youths are cheated at each and every step, from TIAto their labour destinations, due to the absence of monitoring and evaluation. It is the duty of the government to address these anomalies.
He highlighted the problems faced by the migrant Nepali workers.
Some of them include the misuse of remittance in unproductive sector, hurdles faced by them mostly in the Gulf countries and Malaysia, the injustice of employers not paying remuneration for overtime work, and the problems faced by women workers. As Nepal cannot immediately offer jobs to millions of Nepalis at home, the government should work hard to protect the rights of the migrant workers engaged in the host countries and it should also try to supply skilled workers there.
Realising the fact that the remittances have greatly contributed to reducing poverty in the country, the government should also come up with plans of utilising the remittance in the productive sectors by pooling in their income from overseas. The government cannot blame the individuals for not investing the hard-earned money in the productive sector. How can the dependents of the migrant works make good use of the remittance when they themselves are unskilled or have no idea where to invest the little amount of money that they have saved? In this respect, the government needs to identify the areas where the dependent family members can invest their savings in the productive sectors. Two years ago, the government came up with an idea of investing the remittance in the government-run hydropower projects under the slogan of "Nepal ko pani, Janata ko lagi". Initial response to the programme was highly inspiring. But it fizzled out as the general people were not interested in pouring in their money in these projects as they knew it would take decades to recover their investment and get profits from there.
People do love to invest their money in highly productive areas. But the government must ensure that their investments do not go to waste.
The government has adopted a policy to encourage local communities to plant trees of agro-forestry species in private and public lands aiming at contributing to the national economy through commercialisation of agro-forestry and creation of employment opportunities for local communities. The 'Model Agro-forestry Programme Implementation Procedure' recently endorsed by the Ministry of Forests and Environment enhances land productivity incorporating cultivation, tree plantation and livestock farming. But, mere making pledges will not make an iota of difference if constraints like lack of commitment continue to remain.
The government must provide saplings of medicinal plants, non-timber trees and multipurpose tree species to the communities to implement it. While the existing policy still undermines the value of protection and marketing of on-farm agro-forestry species and products, diverting its efforts to government owned forestland, policy makers need to understand first households' need and knowledge and their strategies in the development of agro-forestry policies.
It should also contribute to the economic condition of the small and marginal farmers.
A version of this article appears in the print on December 31, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.